Anthony Davis entered the league as the No.1 draft pick back in 2012 but he didn’t win the Rookie of the Year last year. In fact, Damian Lillard stole the show last season with his performances and he was the one to draw the biggest portion of attention from the NBA world. Some people around the league even doubted Davis’s value, stating that he might end up not being as good as most draft analysts expected. However, Davis recorded a great rookie season and with his outputs in 2013 – 2014 he proved all those critics wrong. In fact, Davis showed that he can be the franchise player most of the draft analysts expected him to be. Now, the New Orleans Pelicans are looking to build around him, surround him with those pieces that will make his presence even more felt and help him take the team to the next level.
Of course, the New Orleans Pelicans already have much talent onboard. Apart from AD, the four other starters, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans form a powerful starting lineup, which is considered capable of leading the team into the playoffs next season. Unfortunately, the Pelicans were struck by several injuries, some of them severe, like the one that Ryan Anderson suffered earlier in the season. Hopefully, the Pelicans can have their entire arsenal available next season and if they manage to stay healthy, they will stand good chances to make it to the postseason.
All five starters are under contract for at least the next two seasons, with the Pelicans holding a team option for Anthony Davis for the next couple of seasons, an option which they’ll surely exercise. Eric Gordon has a player option for the 2015 – 2016 season but up to then, the core of the team might just be the same. The truth is that the Pelicans were looking for ways to improve their roster during the 2013 – 2014 season, mainly by trading away Eric Gordon, who has a very big contract and takes much of the salary cap. Gordon is in the books for about $14.9 million next season and if the Pelicans somehow found a way to trade him away and get one or two impactful players in exchange, that could certainly help the team move forward. But even if they don’t find a way to trade him away during the offseason, New Orleans can enter the 2014 – 2015 season under the current formation and do well.
The Head Coach of the Pelicans, Monty Williams, praised Anthony Davis for his performance this season and recognized his future potential. AD is just 21 and he is turning out to be one of the best and most versatile big men in the league. He has tremendous length, one that allowed him to record a league – best 2.8 blocks per game and he drastically improved his offensive game this season, finishing with 20.8 points per contest. The 6’10” forward shot at a 51.6 percent rate from the field and he was very accurate from the charity stripe, too, going 79.1 percent. Due to the fact that Davis gets to the line often, his ability to knock down his free – throws is just another plus to his game.
Monty Williams, who was a member of the San Antonio Spurs back when the team acquired its franchise big man, Tim Duncan, didn’t hesitate to compare the Pelicans’ current situation with the situation the Spurs were into, when they were trying to build around Duncan. He stated:
“We had the same thing in San Antonio. Everyone had the same goal: We were trying to put the best team around Tim Duncan possible, so that we could maximize who we thought at the time was maybe the best power forward in the history of the game. We’re in that mode right now. Who can we put around Anthony Davis to maximize this opportunity we have, with who we think is a top-five, elite player in the NBA?”
It’s obvious that the Pelicans will now try to perform some significant moves during the offseason, in an effort to make the most out of their franchise big man. After a mediocre 34 – 48 season, which however included several injuries, New Orleans is looking to return much stronger next season and make it to the forefront of the Western Conference.
Davis will most probably need a true center along his side. For sure, Ryan Anderson is a deadly scorer. He was putting up huge numbers prior to his injury, he is a terrific three – point shooter and he is still very young. Nonetheless, there is one thing Anderson is not and that’s a center. Anderson is a great stretch four, who can kill the opposing team from deep. However, he is not a great defender, he doesn’t have the size and bulk needed to stay in front of the league’s most dominant big men and he is not the best rebounder in the league either. That’s why he might just be the ideal trade chip for the Pelicans, who could be in pursuit of a capable, sized and most probably veteran center. Greg Monroe could be an option.
Adding a big presence, a true center in the middle would unload a big chunk of the pressure on both ends of the floor off Davis. This season, AD had to do pretty much everything close to the rim, rebound, and score, alter or block shots and defend the opposing big men. With a big and quality presence inside, he could have the opportunity to further unfold his game.
So, if there are two potential moves during this offseason for the Pelicans, these might be the addition of a center and a trade of Eric Gordon or Ryan Anderson. The certain thing is that we should expect the Pelicans to return much stronger next season.